On Monday, America celebrates Memorial Day, the day fallen American soldiers are honored. Hundreds of thousands of war veterans actually get together to parade all across the land, but for most Americans, this holiday (the last Monday in May) has long since taken on a different importance: the beginning of summer, hooray!!
New York’s rich and beautiful people opened the season promptly on Memorial Day weekend. They fled Manhattan and swarmed eastward through traffic jams approximately 100 miles to the Hamptons (Sylt for New Yorkers). As every year, the sleepy little hamlets on the Atlantic are transformed overnight into the hippest party hotspots in the United States. Steven Spielberg, the Olsen twins, Sarah Jessica Parker and P. Diddy vacation here.
On Thursday, school buses and pickups still dominated the street scene. On Friday, the “monied elite” took the helm. Bentley and Land Rover instead of delivery vans and Ford Explorers. Financial wizards, lawyers and surgeons instead of electricians, plumbers and gardeners. Armani instead of blue coveralls.
While the natives still worried about rising grocery and gasoline prices, visitors inquired about the important things: the newest night club? (Kobe Club). Have you seen Sex-and-the-City star Kim Cattarall? (In East Hampton, directly on the beach). Did you hear the most expensive house rents for a million dollars for the three summer months? (The villas, renting for more than $500,000 a month, have all long since been booked)
Yet one thing was different this summer kick-off: It’s not just those who pay in dollars throwing their money around, Euros are being flashed as well. The weak dollar (one Euro will get you $1.58) has made the European currency socially acceptable in America’s most expensive holiday spot. Euro customers arrive from Spain, France and Germany and they’re giving the New Yorkers competition.
A few numbers: 35% to 45% of visitors to these exclusive holiday hotspots come from overseas; 20% of summer renters from the Euro-zone. The same holds for 10% of homebuyers, five times the number barely three years ago. No wonder: just a few years ago, the Hamptons weren’t even affordable compared to Europe’s favorite holiday havens such as Mallorca.
Robin Nader, manager of a Cynthia Rowley Boutique says, “We expect a lot of Europeans. And if they want to pay in Euros, thank you very much . . .” And Sybille van Kempen, owner of a delicatessen where a lobster salad costs $100 says, “That’s only 60 Euros. Practically free . . .” The change, by the way, is given in US currency . . .
This new trend toward the Euro doesn’t make all New Yorkers happy. The daily newspaper New York Post blasphemes: “Turncoat business people in the Hamptons are switching over to the Euro.” And restaurant owner Pierre Weber (a French immigrant) in Bridgehampton says, “This is America. Whoever wants to eat at my place has to pay in dollars. I’m positive the Euro will start sinking soon . . .”
But until it does, Euro paying customers will get preferential treatment.